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Teen Pressure: Parents Pushing Academic Stress May Affect Mental Health

Risk Factors that Lead to Teen Pressure

Teens with poor mental health suffer from poverty, racism, and discrimination. But, a new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has identified a new risk factor. “Ongoing pressure to excel in high-achieving schools in affluent communities”

High-Achieving Schools and Teen Pressure

Researchers at Arizona State University studied the parent-child relationship and mental health. They found that “teens in high achieving schools face different kinds of pressure, but it is substantial pressure nonetheless.”

What Causes this Type of Teen Pressure?

The relationship teens have with their parents determines how well students perform. “The parent-child relationship influences the mental health of adolescents in high-achieving schools.”

teen pressure
The Development and Psychopathology Study of Teen Pressure

Researchers from Arizona State University compiled data from the New England Study of Suburban Youth (NESSY). NESSY participants completed yearly questionnaires.  The surveys evaluated “their mental health and the quality of their relationships with others.”

The 262 Participating students included:

  • Two-parent families
  • Parents that were primarily white-collar professionals
  • Parents that were well-educated

Researchers noted, “parent-child relationships continue to serve as instrumental sources of support throughout adolescence. The quality of these connections can have ripple effects on adjustment and mental health outcomes.”

Teen Pressure Evaluated Through Yearly Assessments

Researchers collected data over 7 years, from sixth grade to senior year of high school. They studied “the children’s feelings about the parent-child relationship, and how it affected their mental health as seniors in high school.”

Yearly assessments included:

  • Evaluating feelings of alienation from each parent
  • How much trust the child felt with each parent
  • How well the child and parents communicated

Researchers focused on the adolescent’s perspective. “It’s what the children experience that is far more important in terms of effects on their mental health.”

Clinical Evaluation Results

Researchers note “preteens and teens often pull away from their parents as they begin to explore self-sufficiency and independence. When this happens, parents tend to give their child the space they need to navigate this independence. But, if this response is seen by the teens as parental disengagement, it can lead to problems.”

Did feelings of alienation have an effect on mental health and development? Researchers “examined whether the reported changes could predict depressive symptoms or anxiety by the end of high school.”

Researchers found:

  • Grade 12: Children had higher levels of anxiety from increased feelings of alienation from both parents. They also had decreased trust between children and their mothers.
  • Grade 12: Teens also showed signs of depressive symptoms. This is from increased alienation. Also, from decreased trust with mothers during the high school years.
  • Middle school girls: reported greater increases in alienation from both parents. And, greater decreases in trust with their mothers.
  • Girls at age 18 also experienced higher levels of anxiety than boys during senior year.
  • Teens reported feeling closer to their mothers.

Researchers said, “our findings emphasize the importance of parents constantly working on close and supportive relationships with their children, even if the teenager or pre-teen is pulling away.”

Parents should continue developing healthy relationships with their teens. Better relationships resulted in less teen pressure.

To learn more about mental health, click here.